At Magoosh, we recently completed a study of the top test takers, and have some cool tips to share with you to help you get that top score. We surveyed more than 400 Magoosh students who scored in the top 10% in the GRE, GMAT, SAT and ACT, and found the study habits that correlate with high test scores. I took the GMAT earlier this year, and got a 740, using many of the study habits that were uncovered in this survey. I actually wish this survey was published when I was studying because it took me a long time to find my groove. Hopefully you are reading this in time so you can incorporate these habits into your study routine!
Take a look at our findings…
• Study solo and study in silence. 98% of survey respondents studied alone instead of in a group, and 63% studied in complete silence instead of listening to music. I juggled my GMAT studying with a full-time job and a poor semblance of a social life. You may also be juggling a family or classes or other responsibilities. Because time is so limited, it’s really important to find make the most of the time that you do have. I found that studying in a quiet place without any distractions helped me to focus on the material in front of me, optimizing my time.
• Study for at least a month. 84% studied for a month or longer. While the actual amount of time you spend studying will vary depending on how well you already know the material, you definitely want to leave enough time to get a full grasp of the material and test format without last-minute cramming.
I took about 3-4 months to study for the GMAT. I used the first month as a trial run. Being a good few years out of undergrad, I had not studied for a standardized test for a long time, and so it took some time to re-familiarize myself with the actual practice of studying. After the first month, I found a 3-month study plan and stuck to it. It’s really important to give yourself enough time to really grasp the material and format of the test. Need help with a study plan? Choose the one that best suits your needs here!
• Give yourself a break the day before the exam. 71% gave themselves a break the day before exam day. Your mind will work best if it hasn’t been crammed with new information immediately before the test day. When planning out your study schedule, make sure you incorporate some free time to let yourself relax.
Cramming for the GMAT is likely not going to work. It’s not a test that requires regurgitation so trying to squeeze in as much information last minute as possible will provide minimal returns. The GMAT is much more strategic in testing your ability to apply the material you’re expected to know, and having a clear and calm mind is necessary to get through test day. Sticking to a detailed study plan will help you pace your studying and should mitigate the need to cram.
• Don’t forget to exercise! 68% exercised at least 1-2 times a week while studying.
Because you have such limited free time, it may seem counterintuitive to focus some of that time away from studying. However, exercising will be extremely beneficial to your studying and I’d highly recommend incorporating it into your schedule. Not only does it give you a chance to release tension in your body, but light-intensity exercise also stimulates physiological arousal, which helps the brain take in and retain more information. I know it may be difficult to drag yourself to the gym after a long day of meetings and a few hours of GMAT practice problems, but even just a short walk or a few yoga poses in your living room will go a long way!
Check out the survey results for more details and more study tips!
What are some study habits that work for you? Please share them with us below!
Jen Nguyen writes for the Magoosh GMAT blog and she is here to do everything in her power to help you ace the GMAT. She is a graduate from the University of Virginia, with a major in Economics and a minor in UVA Men’s Basketball. She is a certified yoga teacher, the world’s laziest runner, and likes to experiment with vegan cooking (it’s really not as gross as it sounds).